PREMIUM Italian spinner and weaver Loro Piana has publicly supported change in Australian Wool Innovation’s board, while urging AWI to comply with market requirements in animal welfare and sustainability.
As AWI shareholders vote in the 2019 director election, Loro Piana Australian representative Roland Gill has advocated a change in AWI directors “to cease mulesing”, supporting Victorian non-mulesed wool grower and board candidate Noel Henderson.
There are eight candidates in the 2019 AWI election vying for three seats, including re-standing directors former chairman Wal Merriman and David Webster, New South Wales veterinarian Dr Michelle Humphries, NSW wool growers Paul Cocking and George Falkiner, South Australian wool grower Janelle Hocking Edwards and NSW consultant Phil Holmes.
Loro Piana has historically been a major wool buyer of Australia’s premium Merino wool superfine and fine clips and is part of the global luxury group LVMH.
Loro Piana’s head of raw wool procurement, Emanuela Carletti, was in Australia this week and looked at alternatives to mulesing, including sheep freeze branding. She spoke of the need for Australia to face what the retail world is demanding from its suppliers.
On behalf of the company, she formally required AWI to comply with the ethical code of what market leaders consider a must in term of animal welfare and sustainable approach.
“The lack of concrete, alternative solutions to mulesing from AWI, has forced us to look also elsewhere for our raw wool,” she said while visiting Australian growers looking at alternative practices to mulesing.
Ms Carletti said Australia has not been collaborative when it comes to dealing with the mulesing issue.
“Other countries now sell their wool at a premium to Australia and we have turned to them to source our raw fibre.
“We have been long term supporters of Australian wool growers; however, we have now come to a point in which we are no longer willing to purchase wool coming from mulesing,” she said.
“Alternatives exists, in fact other countries supply exactly what the market is demanding.
“Far from being in a position to tell the wool growers in Australia what they should or should not be doing, we only want to make them aware of what the market is requiring and what our company code of conduct and ethical principle demands us to do,” Ms Carletti said.
“Then it is their call and their sole choice.”
Loro Piana’s Australian representative Roland Gill said Australian wool growers should look at the evidence of the marketplace.
“Many firms and mills are paying well above market for NM status declared wool. Mulesing is simply not acceptable at retail level anymore.
“We encourage the research arm of AWI to find a genetic solution quickly and we are willing to help and support in any way.”
Mr Gill said Loro Piana prides itself on serving extremely conscious and demanding clients who trust our company and are willing to buy only if they can trust our whole supply chain.
“We will continue to support Australia’s wool industry, but advocate change in directors to cease mulesing.
“We would love to see people like Noel Henderson, who ceased mulesing in 2011 to bring new ideas and fresh thinking to AWI,” she said.
“People like Noel, with strong corporate governance and global industry experience, can only add value to the AWI board.”
Sheep freeze branding needs validation
Italian top maker Claudio Lacchio accompanied Ms Carletti in Australia and said the sheep freeze branding procedure definitely looked less invasive than traditional mulesing.
“But the international scientific community should express an animal welfare/technical view on it.
“We are currently working with a group of Italian vets and scientists, which in cooperation with Dr John Steinfort and a couple of universities should validate or not the system, as far as they are concerned,” he said.
“Then whether it will be accepted by the animal rights groups is a different story most probably.”
Mr Lacchio believed that while the sheep freeze branding system is under scrutiny and being tested, wool from sheep it is applied to should not fall within the (current National Wool Declaration) non-mulesed category by default — even if this is the way the Australian law is structured — and it should be clearly identified in the selling catalogue.
“It could probably be considered as a better way to prevent the flystrike issue, but I do believe only as a transition method towards a (hopefully) phase out of mulesing all together.”
There is considerable industry discussion and within the current NWD review about defining sheep freeze branding and/or clips in a ‘processed non-mulesing’ category.
On the issue of market acceptance of pain relief, Mr Lacchio said big brands now just accept non-mulesed wool.
“It’s not a matter of being realistic or not, it is more to do with supplying our clients what they require, and today it is all about NM wool.”
Ms Carletti will host Australian and New Zealand wool growers in Milan next week to announce the winner of the company’s World Record Bale award.
Click here to read the Loro Piana press release.